My #SXSW session “Capital vs. Talent” is today at 5 pm, Hilton 616AB #whosboss

Tax wealth not work

I’ll be hosting a core conversation today at 5 pm in Hilton 616AB.

What is a core conversation?

“The informal discussions that take place in the hallways between sessions have traditionally been one of the most productive parts of the SXSW Interactive Festival. In 2008 we formalized this process by adding our Core Conversation program, sessions in which a single moderator leads an open discussion with attendees around a specific topic for an hour’s time.”

Here’s what we will discuss:

Every business must manage a fundamental conflict between individuals who control the means of production and individuals who operate those means to a profit. Roger Martin outlined this struggle in the classic HBR article “Capital Versus Talent: The Battle That’s Reshaping Business.”

Today, businesses are challenged by an added dimension: the rise of social media. Individuals seek global recognition by sharing insider viewpoints with the world and Talent has embraced the leverage of new tools. Management has tried to quell the rise of a workforce filled with “personal brands,” wondering what defenses remain to mitigate the risks of an employee base that is active in social media.

I’ll discuss how the best solution for Capital is counterintuitive — brands are best off by wholly embracing social business. Far from condoning revolution, management can harness the collective efforts of seemingly self-guided individuals for corporate gain under the umbrella of “social business.”

If you’re at the session, I’ll see you later today!

2014: The Big Shift

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 11.05.39 AM

To kick off the new year, I contributed to a collection of nine ideas that are reshaping the future, collected by Nancy Giordano and Play Big. They include:

  • A bipolar economy
  • When everything is smart
  • Permanent state of ambiguity
  • The disruption mandate
  • All business is social
  • It’s all connected
  • The relationship economy
  • No mission. No margin.
  • From extraction to contribution

You can learn more at The Big Shift.



All we need is just a little patience


“Childish impatience — this rush to get the answer before really thinking through the question — appears in our adult world, too…The answer lies in teaching methods that stress patience, critical thinking, and a delayed response based on deep and meaningful contemplation.”

— “Relearning the Lost Skill of Patience,” The Atlantic, 15 November 2013.


The plague of plagiarism

This post was originally posted on September 23, 2009.

I was reminded of it after reading “I am a blogger. In other words, a piece of meat.”

I tend to believe that most people participating online do the right thing.

We invest time and energy in contributing to a collective understanding. I applaud Todd Defren and ShiftPR for sharing their work on the social media press release. Nielsen Online offers free use of their industrial-strength brand monitoring system through Blogpulse.

We celebrate the success of others. The community at large helped Chris Brogan and Julien Smith become New York Times best selling authors. We’ve cheered on my friends and former colleagues Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, and Ray Wang (and Deb Schultz) in creating Altimeter Group.

We give credit where and when credit is due. As Dachis Group builds momentum and understanding around Social Business Design, most people have acknowledged our work in adding their own thoughts to the conversation.

However, as social media has mainstreamed, snake oil salespeople have started popping up everywhere. It may be true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – so what? If flattery means siphoning off attention and awareness that leads to business, then criticize me to your heart’s content. I’d prefer to be distinct and profitable then copied and commoditized.

It’s a simple economic fact that producers need incentive to produce. Social media isn’t socialism. When I see work get plagiarized, my natural reaction is to pull back and share less. Which is unfortunate, because I’ve experienced how connecting and collaborating with a larger ecosystem has driven improved outcomes. However, this ensures the preservation of value for constituents who matter most – my clients.

As we sit poised before flu season, many people have prepared themselves with vaccines and behavioral changes. The equivalents in social media may be Creative Commons and behind-the-scenes process changes. Just as public health officials monitor for signs of outbreak, you can monitor using tools like Google Alerts, BackType/Tweets, and CopyScape.

I wonder if this will be enough.


Must be the money

“Must be the money” was originally posted on October 6, 2010. Worth revisiting on the day of Twitter’s IPO.



Social media is finally coming to a critical inflection point and make no mistake – it’s all about the money.

When I started blogging five years ago – early, but by no means among the earliest – the prevailing inclination among bloggers was to share and connect on an individual basis. Bloggers shared their content and built each other up by linking to each other in posts, creating blogrolls containing links to friend lists, even commented on blogs of individuals who worked for industry competitors. Corporations had presence through individuals; Bob Lutz at GM and Randy Baseler at Boeing were like the Columbus and Magellan of corporate social media.

Between 2005 – 2008, consumer adoption of social media shot up at a rapid pace. According to Forrester Social Technographics data, US online adults active in social media increased rapidly from just under 50% to 75%. Naturally, brands began to follow consumers into the medium. Early adopters were not happy. Debates between “purists” and “corporatists” began to emerge. What they didn’t realize is what Mark Cuban had called out years earlier – the social internet is a long tail ghetto where no content creator wants to be stuck.

In 2008, I left Forrester to start Dachis Group, seeing the potential for companies to go far beyond what had been imagined possible using social media to date – and the thinking eventually crystallized as social business design. We knew that there was money to be made in “social media marketing” and “Enterprise 2.0” – and we weren’t alone.

I’ve been observing these trends emerge as social business evolves:

  • The nature of “social” has become much less social over the past three years. It’s now increasingly private and profit driven. The bloggers I followed in the early days write blog posts much less frequently today, if at all. However, they’re still writing and thinking about the industry – they’re just doing it behind the firewall and delivering value to paying customers. Smaller, private virtual salons have cropped up to host and monetize conversations – for example, Third Tribe Marketing, the Social Media Business Council, or the 2.0 Adoption Council. You think #Angelgate is only about Silicon Valley and startup money? Think again – similarly, there are private communities thriving today that keep thought leaders connected to one another and others, out.
  • Companies are cashing out, performing their final tricks off of Cuban’s hypothetical vert ramp. From following the brand monitoring space, we’ve seen Cymfony, Umbria, Techrigy, and Scout Labs sell off. You’re probably more familiar with TechCrunch’s recent sale to AOL or Six Apart sold to VideoEgg. From what I hear on some of the tech deals, the companies may not be shaking the glitter off their clothes as much as pawning off whatever usable parts they’ve got left after crashing and burning.
  • Free social media sites are moving to monetize. Ning moved early and very direct. As any MBA could see, penetration pricing strategy, duh. Free doesn’t last forever, but its spectre does sell books. Dick Costolo is Twitter’s new CEO and he has one mission – to make money.
  • Executives are migrating to small, socially-oriented businesses. This time around it’s not limited to traditional-to-dot-com; the similarity is from public to private. Talent is leaving Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft and heading to Twitter, Zynga, and Facebook. In a more old-school way, Erin Nelson is moving from CMO of Dell to CMO of Bazaarvoice. It’s not Shaheen from Andersen to Webvan or Dobbs from CNN to…yet.

Perhaps if the global economy didn’t crash in 2008, social media could’ve floated on in its cordial state indefinitely. But now we’ve seen more than enough proof of the concept that social media and technology drive tangible results for companies. That’s why Dachis Group calls it “social business” – we started using the phrase in January 2009 and have seen many others adopt it since.

Anyone in business knows you need to eventually capture the value you create. That time has come for social business.


Two railroad stories: one true, one false

30th Street Station


1) Four time zones in the United States were established to drive operational efficiency for the nation’s railroads. 130 years later, there’s a sensible argument that we can reduce that number to two — after all, the nature of commerce is quite different today.

2) The design of the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters was determined by the width of two horses’ behinds. Why? Because Roman roads were engineered based on a standard width (two horses) which translated into English roads, which were the basis for US railroads. The story is totally false, but it’s fun to hear and provides a great analogy for people who are willing to ignore the facts.

manure only



#ff @rohitbhargava

The tenth person I followed on Twitter was Rohit Bhargava.

Rohit was formerly with [email protected] and has written a couple of books on marketing and branding. He's on Twitter as @rohitbhargava.


Earlier posts in this series:

October 25, 2013 :: @marianne

October 18, 2013 :: @marketingprofs

October 11, 2013 :: @maxkalehoff

October 4, 2013 :: @cbasturea

September 27, 2013 :: @jowyang

September 20, 2013 :: @hyku

September 13, 2013 :: @gregverdino

September 6, 2013 :: @armano

August 30, 2013 :: @charleneli


Be curious, not furious

Dealing with detractors is par for the course when you participate in public forums, whether online or offline. Jason Falls offers advice on how to handle different types of people including “offended publics, disgruntled stakeholders, competition, trolls and turds,” with the additional insight that

The difference in a troll and a turd is that a turd identifies him or herself with a name and/or email address. They’re accountable, but still being a pain in the ass, mostly likely just because they like being a pain in the ass.


I’ve dealt with a lot of turds over the past nine years. Time and time again I see individuals attempt to build themselves up by tearing other brands and people down. These detractors seek attention and validation. They exhibit low self-esteem and will take whatever feedback they can get, positive or negative. Comments like “you’re so smart” are what they expect. Comments like “you’re wrong” are often interpreted as a lack of intellect of the commentor.

When you set raw emotion aside and think through a situation, sometimes surprising outcomes emerge when dots start getting connected. I’ve seen:

  • A blogger who publishes disdainful criticism of a company’s social media campaign, who then contacted the firm in private to be hired as a consultant and fix the “problems.”
  • An individual who applied for jobs multiple times and was never hired, writing positive content about a company prior to asking for a job and then negative/critical content about the company after it declined to hire.
  • A person who believed him/herself owed money in a business deal, despite having no documentation. S/he was not simply handed payment of an arbitrary sum and has since taken to acting as a subtle detractor of the company.

We’d all like everyone to be positive all the time, but the halcyon days of riding the social media cluetrain are long over. I don’t know if money is the root of all evil, but it quite often lies at the root of why detractors behave the way they do.

Next time you see a heated online exchange — whether you’re directly involved or not —  be curious, not furious. What you discover may surprise you.